Deafness in Senior Dogs

Deafness in Senior Dogs

By: Christina Lee - Deaf Dogs Rock -

We get many questions about deaf dogs here at, but lately we've been getting a lot of questions about older dogs going deaf. First, I want all of our readers with older dogs to know that when an older dog starts going deaf it is not painful (unless of course there is an ear infection involved). Second, a good rule of thumb in noticing your senior dog might be going deaf is if you notice that your dog is not reacting to door bells, other dogs barking, sirens or things your dog has always reacted to in the past but is not reacting to now.

Another sign your older dog might be going deaf is if you feel your dog is sleeping heavier than normal and does not wake up to noises in your home.Deafness in Senior Dogs Your dog may also seem startled when you try to wake him/her up from a deep sleep.  If you suspect your hearing dog might be going deaf then try standing behind your dog to test the dog's hearing by clapping your hands or jingling a set of keys.  If your dog's ears don't move, twitch or the dog's head doesn't turn towards the sound you are making, then there is a good chance your older dog has probably gone deaf. If you think your senior dog has gone deaf, then you need to see a Veterinarian as soon as possible to rule out an ear infection.

The good news is older deaf dogs are very easy to train with regards to learning sign commands. In fact, they are probably already reading many of your visual cues. Since I have two younger deaf dogs and three hearing dogs, all my dogs know sign commands just from watching me give my two deaf boxer dogs sign commands. Sometimes I even test my hearing dogs with signs commands without saying a word just to see if they will follow the signs. They will usually go ahead and do whatever it is I am asking just by using the correct sign.

It is important for dog owners to incorporate hand gestures in their dog's training so that all the dogs in the family learn commands by voice and hand signals. This way if both auditory and visual commands are used when the dogs are being trained,  it won't be such a big deal for an older dog to make the transition from hearing to deafness as the dog ages. 

Deafness in Older DogsIf you find your senior dog has gone completely deaf and you haven't already been training with sign commands, then by all means go back to using a treat based positive reinforcement training (using treats, toys or praise as a reward) along with a sign command. Once you get started, you will be amazed at just how fast your senior dog will actually catch on to your new training methods when using sign commands.  For more tips on training with sign commands, visit: 

Here are a few testimonials from our Deaf Dogs Rock followers that own older deaf dogs:

Mitch White - Have patience. They are nervous or scared about how their life has changed. My 14 year old cairn terrier mix and chihuahua mix both knew hand signals and this made for an easier transition.

 Tracy Kraft - Columbus, GA- My 15 y/o peekapoo, Bear, lost his hearing & eyesight about the same time which made it more challenging. Even though he is a small breed I always felt very secure as he would let me know of the slightest noise outside. Now, he can sleep through a tornado and not wake up and I have to treat him more like a puppy again and pick him up to take him in and outside. The positive side is that he loves to sleep now and will let me sleep in. Here is a photo of my 15 year old Peekapoo Bear from Halloween last year. 

Deafness in Senior Dogs

Jessie Bohanan- Douglasville GA. Our 17year old mix was already blind for years before she lost her hearing. There wasn't much we could do besides guide her back into the house by using our bodies. She spooked easily so I would try to make the floor vibrate by stomping before touching her but even then she would still spook if poked. I guess I have no advice since mine was both deaf and blind.

John Guertin - Las Vegas NV - Train your dogs from beginning with hand signals as well as voice commands. I lost my old dog last year. He was deaf for the last five years but he always knew what I was saying.

Nicole Bickel Jackson - Antioch, CA. Our 13 year old Black Lab / Whippet Mix started losing her hearing about a year ago. We rescued her when she was merely 6 weeks old and we trained her to understand many commands not just by voice, but by hand signals as well. Dogs are super smart so she knows every command by hand motion and still responds as if she can hear. As Melanie got older her eye sight has suffered some but she is still able to see us through her beautiful and semi-cloudy eyes. Plus, she is familiar with our house so she makes it around just fine.

Jean Payne - Middlebury, Vermont ...we had a German Shorthair Pointer who went deaf as it got older...we just went out with him when he needed to do his business and gently guide him back inside the house....he knew the sign come and would do that, he died at age 16.

Veronica Winterscheidt - Illinois - My 13 year old lab started going deaf about a year ago. As soon as we suspected that he was losing hearing, we began incorporating hand signals to the verbal commands that he already knew. It has worked pretty well. The issue that I have noticed is that he has become more introverted since losing his hearing. He'll sometimes just go lay in a spare bedroom by himself, sleeping or just looking around. Any advice to make him feel supported and should I discourage this self-induced isolation? He seems to be content being by himself, but he used to be more outgoing.

Rhonda Neil Schmitz - Lago Vista, TX- My 12 yr old Sheltie started losing her hearing about a year ago...when mine were puppies I taught both hand and voice I use the hand signals...I also have a 2 and 5 year old Shelties so when she is totally crashed out and they need to go outside I send the two little ones in to rouse her...have patience and give them lots and lots of ♥ For more Deaf Dogs Rock Happy Tails stories visit: